In light of the importance of addressing the digital divide in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Sustainable Development Goals, the President of the General Assembly has decided to convene a one-day High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity on Tuesday, 27 April 2021, in the General Assembly Hall, United Nations Headquarters.
The thematic debate will be convened in response to calls from Member States to do so, and is held pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 72/313 of 17 September 2018, entitled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, in which the Assembly ‘recognizes the value of holding interactive inclusive thematic debates on current issues of critical importance to the international community, and calls upon the President of the General Assembly to organize such debates in close consultation with the General Committee and Member States’.
The High-level Thematic Debate will be convened under the theme “Whole-of-Society Approaches to End the Digital Divide” and will highlight the importance and urgency of political commitment at the highest levels to address the digital divide in support of COVID-19 adaptation, response and recovery efforts, in alignment with the SDGs.
The Debate will also mobilize the international community to strengthen related existing multi-stakeholder initiatives and partnerships, and support the creation of additional partnerships to accelerate implementation efforts.
The High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity will be broadcast live at http://webtv.un.org
Civil society representatives and individuals were invited to submit their questions for the three interactive panels at the Debate. Questions were collected via an online form, which has now closed.
▪ H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the General Assembly
▪ H.E. Mr. Munir Akram, President of the Economic and Social Council.
▪ Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations
▪ H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, United Nations Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.
▪ Ms. Manjeet Kripalani, Executive Director of “Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations”
Global Assessment of Digital Cooperation and Connectivity by the United Nations Regional Commissions.
Mr. Patrick Gelsinger, CEO, Intel
Mr. Hans Vestberg, CEO, Verizon Communications
H.E. Mrs. Louise Mushikiwabo, Secretary-General, the International Organization
of La Francophonie
H.E. Ms. Deema Alyahya, Secretary-General, Digital Cooperation Organisation
Dr. Ahmed Elmagarmid, Executive Director, Qatar Computing Research Institute,
and Ms. Jennifer Colville, UNDP
Ms. Mireia Villar Forner, UN Resident Coordinator in Uruguay
10:40 -11:30 am
Panel 1: Ending the Digital Divide by 2030: COVID-19 Recoveries to Accelerate the Decade of Action
Internet connectivity and digital skills are inextricably linked with more education and job opportunities, and more access to information and services. Adaptations to COVID-19’s impacts are accelerating digitalization, and societies need tools to adapt to these structural changes now to thrive in the emerging digital economy. Yet, these shifts risk entrenching the inequalities that disadvantage the digitally disconnected if substantial efforts are not geared to reduce multidimensional digital divides. The transformational potential of digital connectivity for the SDGs will be best achieved when governments, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders work towards a common goal.
Director of Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU
Managing Director, Technology Bank for the LDCs
Vice President, UN Affairs, Microsoft
Deputy Director & Policy Lead, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI)
Secretary-General, Caribbean Telecommunications Unions
Chair Multistakeholder Advisory Group, Internet Governance Forum (Moderator)
11:30 am-1:00 pm
Member States are invited to focus their statements on contributions to the overall vision, goals and targets of ending the digital divide, enhancing global digital cooperation, and upscaling digital contributions to environmental action by 2030. In this regard, Member States are encouraged to describe national and regional challenges, policy responses and commitments, and announce partnerships, new multistakeholder initiatives and development cooperation.
Ms. Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and Director-General, UN Office, Vienna
ITU: Child Online Protection Guidelines
Mr. Bob Moritz, Chairman, PwC International
Ms. Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO, &
H.E. Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, CEO, Dubai Cares
Ms. Alison Bryant, PhD Senior Vice-President, AARP Research and Digital Equity
ITU: AI for SDGs
Panel 2: Equitable Access and Digital Empowerment: Securing a Safe, Inclusive, Free and Open Digital Future For All
The digital divide reflects and amplifies existing inequalities. The poorest and the most vulnerable in developed and developing countries alike, who are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, are also the farthest behind in terms of digital access and opportunities. Without greater, more inclusive digital cooperation and coordination, expanding digital connectivity could risk expanding inequalities between and within countries and economic sectors; enabling technology-facilitated abuse and harassment, particularly targeting women and children; and aiding the spread of disinformation and misinformation that can cause harm and divide communities.
ASG for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, DESA, & OiC, Office of the SG’s Envoy on Technology
Acting Secretary-General, UNCTAD
Maria Grazia Panunzi
Country Director, Oxfam Cambodia
José Ramón López-Portillo
10 Member Group, Technology Facilitation Mechanism (Moderator)
H.E. Ms. Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, the Republic of Rwanda
Mr. Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA
Mr. Max Schulze, Executive Chairman of the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance
Ms. Katie Patrick, Environmental Engineer, Designer
Mr. Manav Subodh, Founder, 1 Million for 1 Billion
Panel 3: Greening The Digital Future: Local, Regional and Multilateral Partnership
Global digital connectivity can facilitate gathering and analyzing the global data needed to achieve the SDGs, and the Multilateral Environmental Agreements on Biodiversity, Land, Climate and Pollution. Global connectivity has the potential to greatly increase resource and technology efficiencies and reduce certain kinds of pollution, but it can also lead to entirely new services that require energy and increase pollution, sometimes with novel substances. Governments, the private sector, civil society and others play an important role in determining the balance between the two, including via market incentives. Whole-of-society approaches will be key to implementing the sustainable consumption and production patterns needed to realize benefits and avoid trade-offs. They will be especially important for managing rebound effects from the increased use of digital technologies.
CEO, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL
Executive Director, Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative
Executive Director, Sustainability in the Digital Age
Chief Economist, FAO
Fred Onduri Machulu
Coordinator on technology transfer, LDC Group on Climate Change
Director, UN Climate Technology Center and Network (Moderator)
High-Level Plenary (continued)
• H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the General Assembly
- Summary of the High-Level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity
- Letter dated 14 May 2021 regarding spill-over arrangements for the High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity
- E-statements delivered at the High-level thematic debate on digital cooperation and connectivity
- Letter dated 23 April 2021 conveying the final programme, including all speakers in the Multi-stakeholder Spotlights, as well as the final inscription list for the High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity
- Letter dated 19 April 2021 conveying the final programme, list of speakers as well as a Supplementary Information Note for the High-Level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity
- Supplementary information note in preparation for the High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity
- Audio-Video Guidelines for Pre-Recorded Statements
- Letter dated 10 March 2021 conveying the provisional programme for the High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity
- Letter dated 27 January 2021 conveying the concept note for the High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity